×

Game of Thrones

Westeros, a mythical land of seven kingdoms where dragons once lived is full of plotting, intrigue and fractious families on all sides, resonating beyond fans of George R.R. Martin's novels.

With:
King Robert Baratheon - Mark Addy
Theon Greyjoy - Alfie Allen
Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark - Sean Bean
Daenerys Targaryen - Emilia Clarke
Ser Jaime Lannister - Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Tyrion Lannister - Peter Dinklage
Lady Catelyn Stark - Michelle Fairley
Petyr Baelish - Aidan Gillen
Prince Joffrey Baratheon - Jack Gleeson
Ser Jorah Mormont - Iain Glen
Jon Snow - Kit Harington
Queen Cersei Lannister - Lena Headey
Bran Stark - Isaac Hempstead-Wright
Viserys Targaryen - Harry Lloyd
Robb Stark - Richard Madden
Sandor Clegane - Rory McCann
Sansa Stark - Sophie Turner
Arya Stark - Maisie Williams

Although “Mad Men’s” Don Draper partially scratched the itch, premium TV has been actively seeking its next Tony Soprano. While Showtime’s medieval “The Borgias” directly promoted that analogy, HBO comes much closer with “Game of Thrones,” which reaches even farther afield — to Westeros, a mythical land of seven kingdoms where dragons once lived — to deliver a mob boss (OK, king) beset by plotting, intrigue and fractious families on all sides. Massive in scope and cinematic in detail, this dense piece of storytelling should resonate beyond just fans of George R.R. Martin’s novels, providing HBO its own formidable seat of power.

The “Thrones” DVD came with a sort-of study guide for the uninitiated, but HBO needn’t have worried. In relatively short order, the series adaptation by writer-producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (with Tim Van Patten directing the first two episodes) grabs the audience by the throat like an exceptionally loyal wolf, and, through the six previewed episodes, never relinquishes that hold.

That grip, moreover, happens with a relatively modest amount of hacking, whacking and shagging, though there’s enough sex and swordplay to keep an audience on edge, while firmly establishing the project’s pay TV credentials.

Summarizing the plot is no small feat, but heavy sits the crown on the head of King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), who bluntly states his aim to “eat, drink and whore my way to an early grave.” His queen (“300’s” Lena Headey) might well be plotting against him; a sadistic exiled prince (Harry Lloyd) has wedded his sister (Emilia Clarke) to a vicious barbarian (“Conan” star Jason Momoa) to facilitate raising an army against Robert; and the king’s principal adviser, known as the Hand of the King, has died, leaving a power vacuum.

Asked to fill that leadership void serving the mercurial king is a grim northerner, Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean), who soon begins to realize his predecessor’s death might not have been happenstance. The narrative also follows Stark’s various children, and the queen’s two brothers: the dashing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and droll dwarf Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, as usual committing grand larceny in all his scenes), who relies on his brain to compensate for a lack of brawn.

These stories play out across multiple locales, from the seaside debauchery of Dothraki warriors to Stark’s castle to the ice-bound frontier at the kingdom’s edge — protected by a massive wall — where Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is dispatched.

Game of Thrones” excels on multiple levels — with its splendid ensemble cast (able to sell even the clunkier fantasy dialogue), intricate palace machinations, sly humor and growing sense of inevitable conflict. The production’s look is a wonder, showcasing a variety of environments (lensing was in Northern Ireland and Malta) and ornate sets and costumes that approximate the feel of a theatrical blockbuster.

Indeed, in terms of visual ambition and atmosphere, this series challenges the movie world on summer-tentpole turf, while simultaneously capitalizing on an episodic approach that allows the interlocking stories to unfold in a manner no feature ever could. And if the pacing is occasionally uneven in later episodes, by then the hook has been planted so deep a loyal audience will happily overlook fleeting lapses in exchange for the abundant pleasures heralded by the opening chords of Ramin Djawadi’s muscular theme.

“Winter is coming,” Stark and others warn, a reference not just to Westeros’ unpredictable seasons but the massing clouds of war. And as King Robert wryly observes in a later hour, “Backstabbing doesn’t prepare you for a fight.”

Perhaps not in Westeros, but in this realm backstabbing can make for inordinately rewarding drama. And as much as sci-fi and fantasy fans love to grouse and nitpick, HBO, by enlivening the spring with 10 hours of genuinely epic television, has given them almost no cause for discontent.

Game of Thrones

HBO, Sun. April 17, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Northern Ireland and Malta by Television 360, Grok Television, Generator Entertainment and Bighead Littlehead. Executive producers, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss; co-executive producers, Carolyn Strauss, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis, Ralph Vicinanza, George R.R. Martin; producers, Mark Huffam, Joanna Burn, Frank Doelger; director, Tim Van Patten; writers, Benioff, Weiss; based on the book "A Song of Ice and Fire" by Martin.

Crew: Camera, Alik Sakharov; production designer, Gemma Jackson; editor, Oral Norrie Ottey; music, Ramin Djawadi; costume designer, Michele Clapton; casting, Nina Gold, Robert Sterne. 65 MIN.

Cast: King Robert Baratheon - Mark Addy
Theon Greyjoy - Alfie Allen
Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark - Sean Bean
Daenerys Targaryen - Emilia Clarke
Ser Jaime Lannister - Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Tyrion Lannister - Peter Dinklage
Lady Catelyn Stark - Michelle Fairley
Petyr Baelish - Aidan Gillen
Prince Joffrey Baratheon - Jack Gleeson
Ser Jorah Mormont - Iain Glen
Jon Snow - Kit Harington
Queen Cersei Lannister - Lena Headey
Bran Stark - Isaac Hempstead-Wright
Viserys Targaryen - Harry Lloyd
Robb Stark - Richard Madden
Sandor Clegane - Rory McCann
Sansa Stark - Sophie Turner
Arya Stark - Maisie WilliamsWith: Jason Momoa.

More TV

  • T-Pain, Faheem Rashad Najm. T-Pain performs

    TV News Roundup: 'T-Pain's School of Business' Sets August Premiere

    In today’s roundup, “T-Pain’s School of Business” sets an August 6 premiere on Fuse, and OWN greenlights a new talks series. EXECUTIVE NEWS Matt Brodlie is leaving his role as director of original film at Netflix to join the Disney+ content marketing team as senior vice president of international content development. In his new role, [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs For Screens: Labrinth on Scoring HBO’s Drake-Produced Drama 'Euphoria'

    British singer-songwriter Labrinth (née Timothy Lee McKenzie) has been having one of the biggest years of his nearly decade-long career, from the April release of his collaborative album with L.S.D. (a.k.a. Labrinth Sia & Diplo) to his starring role in the latest campaign for MINI, where he reinterprets Cole Porter’s cowboy classic “Don’t Fence Me [...]

  • The Office

    'The Office' to Stream Exclusively on NBCUniversal Service Beginning in 2021

    NBCUniversal announced Tuesday that it will begin streaming “The Office” exclusively on its standalone streaming service beginning in 2021. The popular comedy series will leave Netflix once the current deal with NBCU expires at the end of 2020, the same year that NBCU plans to launch its ad-supported streaming service. All nine seasons of the [...]

  • 'Lincoln Lawyer' Series in Development at

    'Lincoln Lawyer' Series in Development at CBS from David E. Kelley

    David E. Kelley is returning once more to the court of legal dramas. CBS has issued a series production commitment for “The Lincoln Lawyer,” with Kelley in position to pen and executive produce. Based on the series of bestselling novels by Michael Connelly, the show hails from A+E Studios in association with CBS TV Studios. [...]

  • Patrick Somerville'Maniac' TV Show premiere, London,

    'Maniac' Creator to Helm 'Made for Love,' 'Station Eleven' for WarnerMedia

    “Maniac” creator Patrick Somerville has signed on to helm two new series, “Made for Love” and “Station Eleven,” for WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service. “Made for Love,” which will be executive produced and directed by S.J. Clarkson, is a 10-episode, straight-to-series adaptation based on the novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting. The half-hour comedy [...]

  • Naomi Watts and Gretchen Carlson'The Loudest

    ‘The Loudest Voice’ Stars Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe Talk Roger Ailes

    Roger Ailes may have been the force behind the creation of Fox News, but the late newsman’s legacy will forever be his atrocious sexual harassment of several of the network’s female anchors and producers. Showtime premiered its new limited series “The Loudest Voice,” which chronicles Ailes’ rise and fall, on Monday night at the Paris [...]

  • Steve McQueen VSS

    Amazon to Launch Steve McQueen's Anthology Series ‘Small Axe’ in the U.S.

    Amazon has boarded “Small Axe,” the upcoming anthology series from “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen, and will launch the series in the U.S. It will bow on the BBC in the U.K. and BBC Studios is selling it internationally. Amazon’s European content chief Georgia Brown revealed its involvement in the series, Tuesday, at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content